Guests: Cameron Rasmussen, MSW; Durrell Washington, MSW; Michelle Grier, LMSW; Vivianne Guevara, LMSW
Host: Shimon Cohen, LCSW
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In this episode, I talk with Durrell Washington, Vivianne Guevara, Cameron Rasmussen, and Michelle Grier of the Network to Advance Abolitionist Social Work (NAASW). Durrell is a PhD student at the University of Chicago School of Social Work. Vivianne is the Director of Social Work at the Federal Defenders of New York in Brooklyn, New York, Adjunct Faculty at Columbia University School of Social Work, and a facilitator in the community. Cameron works at The Center for Justice at Columbia University and is a PhD student in Social Welfare at CUNY. Michelle is a Black feminist, Brooklyn raised and social worker trained, who is leaning into practices that foster radical healing, racial and gender justice. Their collective grew out of the need for social workers to support each other in abolition work, particularly out of the discussions over the last year where many social workers and national social work organizations have supported social workers either working with the police or replacing police, and the NAASW says a loud “no” to both. They share their definitions of abolition and discuss how – and if – abolition can be applied as a framework for social work. They talk about ways that social work has supported – and continues to support – carceral systems, surveillance, and gatekeeping – and the connection to white supremacy and liberalism/individualism. There is also discussion on social workers – and social work as a whole – not living up to the Code of Ethics and social work values, especially with emphasis on licensure and private practice. They emphasize the need to engage in collective work and support to envision the world we want, as well as how to take smaller steps to implement abolition in the present while working towards a long-term larger vision. Members share their experiences working in the field in ways that do and do not align with abolition and how they navigate that, again stressing the importance of how their collective provides a supportive space where they can engage in abolition work. This is an excellent discussion for those looking to learn about abolition as well as folks who are already doing this work. I hope this conversation inspires you to action.
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